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15 Jul 2016

How to prioritise leads and increase sales productivity


When a salesperson gets a lead - whether it’s an inbound lead, a referral, or one they sourced themselves - they have to prioritise it against the other opportunities they’re working on. And this can be a challenge. While one lead might look great on paper, another could ultimately prove to be the better-quality lead.

Your best leads are strangers that match your ideal buyer profile AND are active in their buying journey. Quite common knowledge. However, you’d be surprised how often sales pipelines become populated with passive buyers, who have no real intention of purchasing anything anytime soon.

It’s therefore crucial that you know how to prioritise and respond to the various forms of active and passive buyers. You may have heard of “inbound selling” – there are many strings to this new approach, and we explain more about it here. However, one thing inbound salespeople are extremely savvy at is prioritising active buyers over passive buyers. You won’t find an ‘Inbound-er’ holding their breath for a prospect that has asked for an email, because your product or service ‘sounds interesting’; no siree – this isn’t Legacy, folks!

Now, what characterises ‘active buyers’?

We’ve set out the main three types of active buyers a sales person will come across in order of priority and how you can give your sales pipeline its best shot with each.

Website form completions / “inbound leads”:

One form of active buyers are visitors completing forms on your website, often referred to as inbound leads. The moment an inbound lead come in represents a moment of interest by the buyer, one you can’t ignore. An Inbound Lead is, hands-down, the most valuable of all leads. By providing their details, a buyer is basically giving you permission to get in touch with them, as they are intrigued by your proposition.

How and when to follow-up:

As an inbound salesperson, you need to connect with inbound leads as soon as possible, as an important aspect of buyer context is timing. The closer you can be to help the buyer at this moment of interest, the more helpful and successful you will be. We live in an instant world and we want answers now, not when we’re caught up in something else the next day.You may, however, decide to leave the prospect with marketing for a while longer to be warmed up, as they might not be exhibiting signs of readiness to be sold to. This is often a decision the salesperson will make – if they don’t have a lot of high-quality prospects in their pipeline, they will probably choose to call them, regardless.

Companies visiting your website “inbound companies” (yes, even when they haven’t provided their details!)

Companies visiting your website, often referred to as inbound companies, also make great leads. A best-in-class website may convert 5% of visitors into inbound leads. That means, at least 95% of the potential buyers finding your website will not fill out a form and identify themselves. Just because these visitors do not fill out a form does not mean they are not in an active buying journey.

How and when to follow-up:

You should still make every effort to engage with these potential buyers. Whilst it is usually not possible to connect an anonymous website visitor with a specific buyer, modern sales and marketing software such as Hubspot enables you to identify the company from which an anonymous visitor originates.

It may sound sneaky, but it often works with great success because you are still catching them in the moment.

Trigger Events

A final source for active buyers are found through “trigger events”. The concept of trigger events has been around for a while. For example, decades ago if a salesperson noticed a newspaper article about a potential buyer, the salesperson may reach out to the potential buyer by referencing the article. In the same way that the internet has empowered buyers with more information, it has also empowered salespeople with more information - and more trigger events! You should listen for the trigger events online that may suggest a buyer active in a buying journey.

It is always best to call prospects are active in the buying cycle. By prioritising such individuals, you’re not only increasing your success rate, but are also increasing productivity and job satisfaction (no-one likes being told to get lost repeatedly!)

When the active buyers dry up, turn your attention onto passive leads

If you are not generating enough leads through the methods above, first you need to take a good look at your marketing team – are they using inbound marketing methods to capture the interest and details of active buyers with engaging content?

Second, you need to proactively identify passive buyers.

It may be called inbound selling, but that doesn’t mean it’s limited to inbound leads. Inbound sales is about basing the entire sales process on the buying journey and personalising the sales experience to the buyer’s context so that they want to continue speaking with you, and are eager to learn more about you and your company’s products and services.

If you approach passive leads with the inbound sales approach you can still achieve success. Here are two ways to find passive leads (again, the best comes first!):

Common connections

A great technique to reach passive buyers is through common connections. Common connections may be professional acquaintances, personal friends, or maybe even family that happen to be connected to potential buyers.

To leverage common connections:

  1. Conduct an advanced search in LinkedIn filtering on the attributes in your Ideal Buyer Profile (i.e. industry, location, specific company name, etc.). For the Relationship strength, choose the 1st or 2nd degrees.
  2. Sort through the results. Look for contacts at companies that match your Ideal Buyer Profile that you are connected to through a person you know reasonably well.
  3. Once you find a contact that meets this criteria, add the contact and company to your CRM. Note the common connection.

Companies matching your Ideal Buyer Profile

A last resort for identifying passive buyers is to simply find companies that match your Ideal Buyer Profile. LinkedIn as well as company databases can be leveraged. In this case, having a high bar on the type of company you identify is recommended. With the absence of an active buyer or a common connection, connecting with the passive lead will be difficult. Therefore, make sure the company is as perfect a fit as possible.

Reaching out to leads in the right order is critical for a salesperson’s success. Instead of responding to leads as they come in, prioritising the hottest ones based on behaviour and demonstrated interest is the easiest way to convert prospects to customers.

Want to learn more about the inbound sales way? Read the free guide below.


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Topics: Marketing, Sales

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